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Saturday, July 6, 2013
On June 28, Nick Natoli saved the Salem Red Sox with a walk-off single that defeated the Carolina Mudcats.
That's nothing, though. Earlier this year, Natoli helped save the baseball program at his alma mater.
Towson University president Maravene Loeschke announced on March 8 that the school would eliminate baseball in the face of budget woes. Later that day, when the Tigers played Delaware, frustrated players applied black duct tape over the name on the front of their jerseys.
"It was really, really disappointing," said Natoli, an infielder who started at Towson from 2008 to 2011. "We had a family there with all my guys, and I don't think the board really saw that. They just saw it as a program getting shut down."
Towson baseball alumni, including Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, sprang into action to try to get the decision reversed.
Former players arranged meetings with athletic department officials and school administrators. Natoli spoke on behalf of the Class of 2011.
"People ask me if I could have played somewhere else, and I could have played at different places," said Natoli, a native of Ellicott City, Md. "I didn't even know about Towson, actually, when I signed when them out of high school. I still tell people today that I wouldn't change it for the world. Just a small program really fighting every game to win."
Ultimately, the program got clemency from Maryland's governor, who crunched the budget to save the team for at least two more years.
The Tigers responded by winning the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and earning a spot in the Chapel Hill Regional, where it gave North Carolina a surprise test before being eliminated, 8-5.
Natoli was thrilled by the entire underdog run.
"At Towson, you can't really rely on two guys to carry your team like a lot of the D-I schools can," he said. "I think that was the biggest thing that brought us all together and why I have friends like I do today."
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